Cumin Herb Profile

Cumin Uses and benefits

Cumin is an herb that many associate with Mexican and Spanish foods, but it is also widely used in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking. It has a very distinct flavor, and in the US is most often used in packaged taco seasonings (don’t eat those- make your own!)

Cumin’s flavor makes it a favorite for many, but it’s health supporting properties are impressive too!

History of Use

According to Mountain Rose Herbs: “Cumin is the seed of a small plant in the parsley family. Its use goes back 5000 years to the Egyptians, who used it not only as a spice but as an ingredient in the mummification process. The Greeks and Romans also used cumin and highly regarded it as one of the essential spices. In the Middle Ages cumin seed was thought to promote love and fidelity, so it was carried by attendees of weddings, and solders were always sent off to battle with a fresh loaf of cumin seed bread. Pungent, sharp, and slightly sweet, the greenish brown powder of this herb is an essential ingredient in Mexican and Indian cuisine.”

It has been used in herbal medicine: “In traditional herbal medicine, cumin is used as a diuretic and to treat stomach upset and flatulence. It is thought to promote a healthy digestive system. Cumin stimulates menstruation, and also can be added to gargles to treat laryngitis. Poultices of cumin are used to treat swellings of the breasts or testicles. In Ayurvedic medicine, cumin with ghee is smoked to relieve hiccups. According to the Bible, cumin was so valuable that it could be used in the place of money when it came time to tithe in church.”


Cumin is a good source of Iron, Manganese, and other vitamins and minerals. Some research shows that cumin can stimulate the production of pancreatic enzymes and help digestion. One study found that cumin was protective against memory loss and the damaging effects of stress on the body.

Another study evaluated the antioxidant content of Cumin and found it more effective than other common antioxidants including Vitamin C.  Due to it’s high antioxidant content, some lab research has even found that it might have a role in fighting cancer.

Yet another study found Cumin effective in increasing insulin sensitivity, thus beneficial for diabetics. Still more research found anti-asthmatic properties in Cumin since it works as a brochiodiator and can help asthmatic patients.

Mark’s Daily Apple posted a great article detailing the health benefits of Cumin. From this article:

  • In diabetic rats, cumin extract was more effective at reducing blood glucose and AGE production than glibenclamide, an anti-diabetic drug.
  • Cumin’s anti-glycation properties proved useful in another study, in which diabetic rats were able to stave off cataracts after oral dosing with cumin powder.
  • Another study found that cumin extract reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and pancreatic inflammatory markers in diabetic rats. It also prevented excessive weight loss. Again, it beat out glibenclamide.
  • Oral doses (25, 50, 100, 200 mg/kg) of cumin on consecutive days improved the immune response of mice with compromised immune systems due to restraint-induced stress. These effects were marked by a reduction in elevated cortisol and adrenal gland size, an increase in the weight of the thymus and spleen, and replenishment of depleted T cells. There was a dose dependent response, but all doses had beneficial effects.
  • An extract of cumin had anti-osteoporotic effects on rats, similar to estradiol, but without the associated weight gain. Cumin-dosed (orally, 1 mg/kg) osteoporotic rats had increased bone density and improved bone microarchitecture.
  • Cumin protected the livers of rats from ethanol- and rancid sunflower oil-induced toxicity.
  • One study even seems to suggest a role for cumin in weaning addicts off of opiates – here – by reducing tolerance (yeah, it could increase the subjective high, but it would mean less product was required) and dependence.

Pretty impressive benefits for an herb found in spice packets at the grocery store! If you don’t already use Cumin in your cooking, there are many ways to use it!

Uses for Cumin

I use cumin regularly in cooking and in making homemade spice blends:

Taco Seasoning Recipe:

To make: Put all in jar and shake well or mix in a food processor until mixed. Store in an airtight jar for up to six months. Makes approximately 1 cup. To use: sprinkle on ground beef or chicken as you would any store bought taco seasoning. 3 tablespoons is the same as 1 packet of store bought taco seasoning. Great for lettuce tacos.

Homemade Curry Powder Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup Paprika
  • 1/4 cup cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Fennel Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Fenugreek powder (optional)- gives sweetness
  • 2 tablespoons Ground Mustard Powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground Red Pepper Flakes (optional)- adds spiciness
  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander (optional)
  • 1/4 cup ground Turmeric root
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves powder (optional) – Adds complex flavor

To make: Mix all ingredients in a bowl, jar or food processor and store in an air-tight container until ready to use. Can be used on meats, vegetables or in soups. Especially good in with chicken, shrimp or vegetables.

Fajita Seasoning:

  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons Sea Salt
  • 2 tablespoons Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder

To Make: Mix well in bowl or jar and store in airtight container until use. Use about 1 teaspoon per chicken breast or steak when making fajitas. I use for making Fajitas and Fajita Salads.

Chili Seasoning Mix:

  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1/4 cup oregano
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/4 cup cumin
  • 1 tablespoon thyme

To Make: mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. 1/4 cup of mix=1 package of store bought chili seasoning. Great for all types of chili (this one is my favorite).

Cumin is even great as a stand-alone spice for making tacos, chili or fajitas if it is all you have. I keep a glass jar of it in my spice cabinet.

Do you use Cumin? What is your favorite dish or recipe that uses Cumin? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Cumin is my go-to seasoning. It goes in everything from caseroles to curry. I also make my own taco seasoning, though it is just cumin, cayenne, and garlic. I buy most spices in small quantities, they go flat (not sure what it’s actually called) in a few months if not all used, but cumin, garlic, and ginger get picked up in large quantities. I should really look in to getting some seeds to grind though, the other two I normally pick up fresh and press or grate in the kitchen, cumin still comes to me in a pre-ground state.

  2. Just finished seasoning my ground lamb to make lamb burgers for dinner.  They have lots of cumin already,  but I may go and add a bit more!!  

  3. Season/Sprinkle lots of cumin on cooked flava beans with crushed garlic, lemon juice, sea salt and grapeseed olive oil…. yum yum yum ! Great Appetizer :)

  4. I make a raw vegan taco meet with

    Almonds, walnuts, Sea salt, Cumin powder, Coriander powder, olive oil & Bragg

    Simple, simple

  5. Cumin adds a wonderful deepness to any roux based sauce. I also use it as the main seasoning in most of the Indian dishes that we eat. Also, a pinch turns any potato dish into a superhero.
    Nice site. I have a new bookmark!

  6. I was just wondering if pre-ground cumin seeds have the same health benefits as seeds you grind yourself (I’m thinking about the iron content here).
    Thanks! (and this was a very helpful article)

  7. Hello,
    I always try to buy whole seed and grind how much I need. Is fresh and clean. Who knows how long pre-ground seeds are sitting in the store.

    • That is Correct. Grind the seed in the late night and mix the cumin powder with half a glass of water for 3 to 4 hours.In the early morning add half a glass of luke warm water to it (stir it ) and drink it with empty stomach.You may feel hungry after you drink but do not eat anything until your normal breakfast time.

  8. Love cumin in tacos!! I also put paprika but at the very end. Paprika is high in Vitamin C and if cooked, it gets destroyed. So I never cook the paprika.

  9. Thanks for the info here. When I was in Little Jamaica in NY, I found that the best Curry powder was the simplist…. equal parts of Coriander and Cumin, a little dried Mustard…and that’s it. I have tried the others, but they make the flavor too intertwined without the pure and simplicity of the Curry flavor that I was introduced to by my friend from India. Try it…delicious!
    I cannot hardly wait to try the taco spice recipe…again, Thanks!

  10. Hello… I just stumbled upon a chicken/turkey rub that uses ground smoked cumin. Has anyone here ever heard of “smoked” cumin? Thanx a bunch.

  11. I learned about cumin just recently, and love the strong scent and flavor. Now used for nearly every food group, plus with the health benefits, it’s a permanent spice for our kitchen.

  12. Cumin is very healthy. I use it for all my recipe.

    Try to add 1 teaspoon ground powder of cumin to yogurt with little salt and 1 teaspoon ground pepper. U will love it.

  13. In Morocco we use cumin in almost everything. Try it with your eggs, lentils and beans, not only it will add flavor to your dish but it will also help you with digestion. One teaspoon of cumin powder after a heavy meal helps relieve your stomach.

  14. I have been using a teaspoon of cumin seed in a cup of boiling water as a drink with my breakfast cereals each morning. I had flatulence problems( embarrassing) has helped quite a bit. Not totally free of excess gas but a marked improvement. Well worth going without my early morning cuppa tea and i can always make up my tea intake later on in the day.

  15. This information about uses of “cumin” spice of perfection. amazingly informative and appreciated. I FEEL blessed to be so widely informed. Question? ???is “cumin” a thinning…weight reduction spice “??? Dianna

  16. I have been drinking cumin in hot water as be very in the mornings . The beverage does get rid toxins.
    Betsy B.

    • I make a cold to go drink using water, cumin ground, lemon juice, cinnamon, parsley flakes and garlic powder

  17. I like cumin with frozen corm. I don’t follow package directions.

    Melt some butter in a pan, add corn and cumin to taste (I use 2-3 teaspoons for a couple cups of corn). Cover and heat on medium high until it begins to steam. Reduce heat to a low simmer, stir when needed and cook to taste. (I think it’s best when the corn is heated through, but still close to raw.)

  18. Hi Katie,
    I am afraid that in one of your references your are mixing up cumin (Cuminum cyminum) with black cumin (Nigella sativa). The link that you’ve provided about the cancer fighting properties of cumin is actually about black cumin (Nigella sativa) and not about

    All the best

  19. I have been reading about Cummin seeds for a while and just bought my first package. Can it aid in gaining weight and if so how can it be used?

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